Ladbrokes is attempting to make speculating on financial markets as easy as backing a horse in the 3.45 at Kempton with the help of City bookmaker Cantor.
The two have joined forces to offer fixed odds betting on financial markets, overcoming the major disadvantage with spread betting - the risk that unlucky punters stand to lose many times their original stake if their bets go wrong.
Starting off with bets on whether the FTSE 100 and America's Dow Jones Index will either rise or fall over five minutes, an hour and a day, the two plan to add bets on a range of other indices and individual shares over the coming months.
The ability to speculate with only the risk of losing your original stake has already proved hugely popular - on the first day the company took more than £100,000 of bets.
The average stake was £54, although one punter staked £6,000 on the FTSE 100 falling during a five-minute period on Monday. He won £600.
There are currently two types of bets on offer. With moving odds betting punters can bet on whether the market will finish above or below a set level. The odds change as the market moves up or down.
Take one of the five-minute bets. If the FTSE stands at 5,000 at noon Ladbrokes will offer six different bets. You can back the FTSE to finish at above 5,000 at 12.05 or below 5,000 at 12.05. You can also back the FTSE 100 to finish at above 5001 or below 5001 at 12.05pm and to finish above 4,999 at 12.05pm or below 4,999 at 12.05pm. The odds change depending on how the market moves over the five minutes. A punter is able to bet at any time up until 12.04pm, when betting is suspended.
With static odds, the odds over the five minutes do not change but the level of the FTSE you are betting on moves.
For example, take the above situation at 12.00. At the start of the five minutes odds of 5/6 are offered on the FTSE finishing above 5,000 and below 5,000. Those odds are fixed. However, if the FTSE stands at 5,001 at 12.01PM then you will be offered odds of 5/6 on the FTSE finishing above 5001 at 12.05. It will also be 5/6 against the FTSE finishing below.
A number of other bets are also offered where the level of the FTSE you are betting on moves but the odds remain fixed. For example, at noon you could take odds of 5/1 on the FTSE finishing above 5001 at 12.05pm.
Naturally, the odds are fixed in the bookie's favour, but the margin is reasonably generous. The odds have been set so that Ladbrokes should take in 9pc more in bets than it pays out. For comparison, on the average horse race the bookmaker will typically take 18pc more in bets than it will pay out.
Betting on the FTSE is open between 8am and 4.30pm while the Dow market allows punters to bet between 2.30pm and 9pm. It is maddeningly addictive and the two companies have teamed up because while Ladbrokes has access to a mass market clientele, it lacks the City experience of Cantor.
Still, could the company end up getting burned? The bets on offer look like the sort thing that would enable City traders to make hay.
Cantor's head of business development Dominic Crosthwaite says: "Some people will be able to find instances where our prices are wrong and take advantage. Of course if you are shrewd and know the market well you will be able to make money, but that is the same in any betting market."
David Briggs (07855 275516), commercial director at Ladbrokes, said: "We trialled this with a group of analysts and pension fund managers. They got it pretty quickly but they weren't as successful as you might think. We hope long term that it will appeal to both City punters and to regular Ladbrokes clients who have never seen a Bloomberg screen or bought a share in their lives"
So did Ladbrokes and Cantor make much money on the first day the bets went live? Briggs goes all coy: "We won a smidgeon," he says. "Enough for a return fare between us and Cantor."
The content of this site is copyright 2013 Financial Spread Betting Ltd. Please contact us if you wish to reproduce any of it.